Projects spanning four municipalities in Indiana County and a fifth in Armstrong County get $273,859 for high-speed mid-mile and last-mile broadband infrastructure as part of $10 million package for 19 projects across the Commonwealth, Governor Tom Wolf and region lawmakers announced on Tuesday.
“Installing fiber optic cable in unserved areas of Armstrong and Indiana counties will go a long way to solving what continues to be a digital divide for rural residents,” said Senator Joe. Pittman, R-Indiana, about grants awarded. to Windstream Services LLC for the Borough of Smicksburg and the Townships of Armstrong, Plumcreek, Washington and West Mahoning.
“Almost one million Pennsylvanians don’t have access to broadband internet connectivity – and we’re working to change that,” Wolf said of funding approved for communities in 13 counties by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Funding through CFA’s Unserved Broadband Funding Program can be used for acquisition, construction, equipment and site preparation costs. Wolf said supporting this type of infrastructure will improve economic development, education, health care and emergency services throughout Pennsylvania. In Pittman’s 41st Senate District, Windstream Services LLC of Little Rock, Ark., received all three unserved broadband funding grants, the largest being $204,134 to install 21 miles of fiber optic cable for up to to 189 residential properties and three commercial properties. in Smicksburg and West Mahoning Township.
An unserved area is defined as a designated geographic area in which households or businesses do not have access to downstream speeds of at least 25 megabits (Mbps) per second and upstream speeds of at least three megabits per second. The new infrastructure in the five municipalities will provide broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload with maximum speeds of one gigabit per second (Gbps), or 1,000 Mbps, both for uploading and downloading. This CFA grant to Smicksburg and West Mahoning Township is part of a total project costing $776,210, with $194,052 committed by Windstream and $378,024 secured by the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund , an effort to bridge the digital divide in the same way that member-owned co-ops provided electricity to rural America in the first half of the 20th century.
“Once again, broadband infrastructure has proven to be just as critical to our rural communities and regional economy as our utilities and transportation infrastructure,” said Rep. Brian Smith, R-Punxsutawney, whose the 66th Legislative District includes Smicksburg and West Mahoning.
“Students need it to learn, the farming community uses it to support themselves and help put food on our tables, and emergency responders need it to connect with medical colleagues in situations. sometimes life-saving,” said Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, whose 62nd District includes Armstrong and Washington Townships.
Windstream received a $36,840 grant to install 7.2 miles of fiber optic cable to serve up to 89 residential properties and three commercial properties in unserved areas of these townships. This is part of a total project cost of $195,768, including $48,942 incurred by Windstream and $109,986 guaranteed by the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
Across the county, a $32,885 grant was awarded to Windstream to install approximately 6.67 miles of fiber optic cable to serve up to 90 residential properties and two commercial properties in unserved areas of the township. of Plumcreek, Armstrong County.
“Increasing accessibility and affordability of higher broadband speeds in this part of Armstrong County’s 63rd District will lead to improved and increased economic activity,” said House Majority Whip Donna Oberlander, R. -Clarion. For the Township of Plumcreek, the total cost of the project is $186,290, including $46,573 committed by Windstream and $106,832 guaranteed by the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
Other broadband CFA grants announced by Governor Wolf included $449,103 to In The Stix Broadband LLC to build cable infrastructure for unserved areas of Allegheny Township, Cambria County.
Grants were also announced for municipalities in Bradford, Center, Erie, Franklin, Fulton, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Schuylkill and Wayne counties.